Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.
1) God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid;
My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior
With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. (Refrain)
2) Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds;
proclaim how exalted is his name. (Refrain)
3) Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel." (Refrain)
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.
Used with permission of ICEL.)
Good News, by Rev. Joseph T. Nolan. Liturgical Publications, Inc., 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI. 53151.
Days of the Lord, Volume 1, pp. 116-120. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., 1991.
Catechism: #'s 2822-2827 (Thy will be done). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC: 1994. [As recommended in A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, D.C.: 1993.]
The Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 1975.
The Persistent Question, by William J. Bausch. From More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories, pp. 120-124. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT. 06355: 1993.
- Once a parishioner was painting a small chapel. It was one of those small white picturesque chapels. As he began to get to the windows he noticed that there was a great deal of church left and not much paint. So he added some paint thinner to the bucket and proceeded on. As he reached the eaves of the church, he again noticed that the paint was running out. So once again he added some thinner. Well, by the time he reached the steeple, his paint was so watered down that it was not covering up the old paint. So he bowed his head in prayer in search of divine guidance. A clear, calm voice came to him and advised: "Repaint and thin no more."
- When we pray, we must always remember three things. 1) We must remember the love of God, which ever desires only what is best for us. 2) We must remember the wisdom of God, which alone knows what is best for us. 3) We must remember the power of God, which alone can bring to pass that which is best for us. Those who pray with a perfect trust in the love, wisdom and power of God will find God's peace. (Barclay)
- Salvation and joy are synonymous. The Lord brings liberation to his people, freeing them from having to serve the sentence that sin has placed on them. (Days, p. 116)
The readings for today's liturgy all focus on the need for us as Christians to be joyful, be at peace and not be afraid. In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah tells the Israelites to "Rejoice and exult with all your heart...Do not fear" and that "The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness." The Psalm for the day actually comes from the book of Isaiah and this prophet also tells the people to trust in God and not be afraid. He goes on to say that the people will "draw water joyfully from the wells of salvation." And in the second reading, Paul tells the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." Because of this, if we were still in the Latin church, today would be referred to as "Gaudete", or "Rejoice" Sunday. Not only do the readings focus on that word, but even the opening prayer of the liturgy used to begin with the word "Gaudete".
If we look further throughout the New Testament, we would see that exhortations to "rejoice and not be afraid" abound. For example, in the first chapter of Luke's gospel, the Angel Gabriel tells Mary to "Rejoice, O highly favored one, the Lord is with you...Do not be afraid". And at the end of the gospel of Matthew, the Risen Savior himself tells the women who came to the tomb on Easter morning, "Rejoice...Do not be afraid. Tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me".
Now if we look at the historical settings of our readings today, we would see that they were anything but ideal. The age of Zephaniah was a time of religious degradation, when the old idolatries had reappeared and people worshiped the sun, moon and stars. Rites completely alien to the teachings of Moses flourished in Jerusalem. So to the corrupt city, Zephaniah announced the impending judgment day, the day of the Lord. But in the end and despite their infidelities, the Lord in his mercy will spare a holy remnant which will finally enjoy peace. The words from today's reading come from the hymn of joy at the end of the book from that remnant. (1)
And what about St. Paul? He not only advises the Philippians to rejoice but even repeats himself just for emphasis. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." And then in our short reading, he goes on to tell them: "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
So then, Paul reminds them of these things because he himself is in the best of circumstances. Hardly. As he is writing these words, he is confined to prison with almost certain death awaiting him. Meanwhile, the Philippians were setting out on the Christian way, and dark days, dangers and persecutions inevitably lay ahead. So, in essence, Paul is telling them, "I know what I'm saying. I've thought about everything that can possibly happen. And still I say it--rejoice!" (2)
And in today's gospel, the people, the soldiers and the tax collectors all ask John the Baptist what they should do. He has just finished telling them that "every tree which does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire". Although we are not soldiers or tax collectors, John's words to the multitude do apply to us: "Those who have two coats should give to those who have none; and those who have food should give to those who have none."
So what is John telling us to do? Perhaps to give of what we have, to keep only enough to meet our own needs. Note that he doesn't tell his listeners to give away everything they own, only what is more than meets their own needs. What this implies is that we should trust in God to provide for our needs, come what may. And we should provide for others because our hearts are full of love.
- There's a story I read to which some of you may be able to relate about the author's remembrances of her grandmother, Gagi. At the time of her grandfather's death, at 90 years of age, her grandparents had been married for over 50 years. Gagi felt the loss deeply. The central focus had been taken from her life, and she retreated from the world, entering into an extended period of mourning. Her grieving lasted nearly five years, and during that time, her granddaughter visited her every week or two. One day she visited Gagi expecting to find her in her usual state of quiescence. Instead, she found her sitting in her wheelchair beaming. When she didn't comment quickly enough about the obvious change in her demeanor, Gagi confronted her: "Don't you want to know why I'm so happy? Aren't you even curious?" She went on to explain: "Last night I got an answer. I finally know why God took my husband and left me behind to live without him. Your grandfather knew that the secret of life is love, and he lived it every day. He had become unconditional love in action. I have known about unconditional love, but I haven't fully lived it. That's why he got to go first, and I had to stay behind. All this time I thought I was being punished for something, but last night I found out that I was left behind as a gift from God. He let me stay so that I too could turn my life into love. You see, you can't learn the lesson after you die. Love has to be lived here on earth. Once you leave, it's too late. So I was given the gift of life so that I can learn to live love here and now." On one of her subsequent visits, Gagi told her of something that had happened to her that day. "This morning, your uncle was upset and angry with me over something I had done. I didn't even flinch. I received his anger, wrapped it in love and returned it with joy." Her eyes twinkled as she added, "It was even kind of fun, and his anger dissolved." Though age continued on its course, Gagi's life was vigorously renewed. In the last days of her life, Gagi was admitted to the hospital and her granddaughter visited her often. As she walked toward her grandmother's room one day, the nurse on duty looked into her eyes and said, "Your grandmother is a very special lady, you know...she's a light." Yes, love and joy lit up her life and she became a light for others until the end. (3)
What we have to realize is that everything we have is a gift from God, even the gift of life. And these gifts have been given to us to use and then to give them away. So it is that John says that those who have two coats or more food than they need should give to those who have none. When Gagi did not give away her life to others in love, when she was focused only on herself, she was not happy, she had no reason to live. But as soon as she came to the realization of why her husband was taken first and why she was left behind, her life became "other-centered" and not "self-centered". She had finally acquired the attributes of Christian living which were spoken of in our readings: love, peace, freedom from fear, and most of all, joy.
So like the multitudes, tax collectors and soldiers of the gospel, we need to ask ourselves "what ought we to do?" First of all, as John advised us in last week's gospel, we must prepare a place for the Lord in our hearts. And what better time of the year to do this than right now, as we prepare for the Lord's coming next week. Once we have done that, we can then follow John's advice to the multitudes to give of what we own to those who are in need. For it is only through our actions that others will see the love that God has for them. But in giving of ourselves and the things we possess of this world, we will learn to trust in God for our needs. Then we will not fear that unforeseen dangers will take away our precious possessions in this world because our treasure will be building in heaven. And with this freedom from fear will come the joy and peace which surpasses all understanding, as Paul tells us in the second reading.
So we need to grow daily in attaining these characteristics of a true follower of Christ: love of others, freedom from fear, peace and joy. And if we are lacking in any of these, then we need to rejoice and be glad, even if for no other reason than because God has blessed us with the gift of life for another day, another day to "get it right", another day to draw closer to these ideals. That's what we ought to do.
1. From the introduction to the book of Zephaniah from the New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York, 1970.
2. From The Letter to the Philippians, by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.
3. Grandmother's Gift, by D. Trinidad Hunt. Reprinted with the author's permission from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 60-62. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla., 1993. (Trin can be reached at Elan Enterprises, 47-430 Hui Nene St., Kaneohe, HI 96744. You may contact her at 800-707-3526.)
(Copyright 2015 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you are our strength and our salvation. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are the rock in whom we trust. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you are the one who saves us from our fears. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Paul has told us that we should not be anxious over anything but should let our requests be made known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Therefore, in confidence we bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will constantly show us what we ought to do by what they say and by what they do, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will do all in their power to achieve peace, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of the Church will use this Advent season to prepare their hearts as a fitting place for the Lord, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord may teach us to be grateful for the gift of life that he has given us and that we will use that gift wisely, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord may increase our love for one another and especially for those in need at this blessed time of the year, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have been affected by natural disasters will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious and loving Father, we rejoice in the remembrance of the coming of your Son as one like us. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to place our trust in you and not fear whatever the future holds. We ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.